Dec 022010
Authors: Robyn Scherer

Now that winter is finally here, it seems like it’s that time of year again. Yes ladies, and maybe some gentleman, it’s tanning bed season.

The long days of summer are gone, and there’s a good chance that your summer tan is as well. For some people, like me, this is a good thing, considering a
farmer’s tan is not the ideal “tan.”

However, for many others this causes some perceived problems, and so you head to the indoor sun. You’re not alone.

According to, “Nearly 30 million people tan indoors in the U.S. every year.” The U.S. population is around 310 million, so that means roughly 10 percent of American’s tan.

For those of you who do so on a regular basis, I can predict your future for you. It’s called leather bag syndrome. You know the type of people I’m talking about. Those whose skin is so wrinkly and dark from years of tanning that they resemble your leather purse.

Is this what you want to look like? I realize right now that the tanned look is still “in,” but is it really worth risking your health right now?

The skin cancer website also states, “Frequent tanners using new high-pressure sunlamps may receive as much as 12 times the annual UVA dose compared to the dose they receive from sun exposure.”

Why is this a problem? I thought only UVB rays were bad for you? UVA rays are just as harmful.

Skin cancer is not something to mess around with. “Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in America. People who use tanning beds are 2.5 times more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma and 1.5 times more likely to develop basal cell carcinoma,” the website states.

Not scared yet? I want you to think of your four closest friends. According to the statistics on skin cancer, at some point in your life, one of you will have skin cancer.

Not all skin cancer is deadly. “Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common form of skin cancer; an estimated 2.8 million BCCs are diagnosed annually in the U.S.,” according to the skin cancer website. It continues, “Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common form of skin cancer. An estimated 700,000 cases are diagnosed each year in the U.S., resulting in approximately 2,500 deaths.”

So even though BCC won’t kill you, it can still cause you problems. “In 2004, the total direct cost associated with the treatment for non-melanoma skin cancers was more than $1 billion,” the website reads.

That’s a lot of people and a lot of money. Luckily there are alternatives out there to receive that sun-kissed look.

Many grocery stores, as well as larger superstores, carry many different self-tanners. And in these you get what you pay for. I’m sure many of you have tried this and come out looking like a pumpkin. Technology is getting better though, and many self-tanners actually work quite well now.

Your other option is to get a spray on tan. Yes, these can be expensive. But think of it as in investment now. You are spending the money now to get a tan without causing cancer, instead of spending the money later to treat the cancer. I think that’s a pretty good trade-off.

Here is my public service announcement. Always wear sunscreen. I’ve been there when I thought, “Oh, I’ll only be outside an hour. I don’t need it.” I paid for it dearly later. Many concealers have sunscreen built in, so you can at least get sunscreen on your face everyday. Protect your skin today, and avoid looking like the leather bag in the future.

Robyn Scherer is a graduate student studying integrated resource management. Her column appears Fridays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to

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